India is a land of festivals. A mosaic of cultures, regions, religions and ethnicities, the festive season and spirit continues all through the year. However, when it comes to winter, the weather, seasonal changes and overall sense of euphoria and energy contribute to the celebration of several festivals across the country. Winter festivals are thus, an amalgamation of economical, religious, regional and cultural revelry that interweave through each and are reasons large enough to celebrate.
Types of Indian winter festival
The different types of winter festivals in India can be broadly categorised into harvest festivals and cultural festivals. Some harvesting festivals fall during August-September, some during January and others around March-April. Depending on the region and state different harvest festivals are celebrated during different winter months.
On the other hand, a number of cultural festivals take place between December-March. The coming together of performances, artisans, dances and other cultural elements make these winter festivals a true celebration of the vivid colors, diversity and enthusiasm.
However, the thing to note about festivals in India is no matter the cause of celebration, a few overarching significances remain the same. Festivals are a reflection of culture. And therefore, winter festivals are fraught with different cultural and regional influences. However, the components that remain standard include celebrations in traditional attires, meeting of family and friends, an involvement of regional folk dance and music and lastly, the celebration of authentic regional and heritage cooking. Festivals are associated with typical traditional clothing, dishes, music and more.
Winter festivals of India – Harvest celebrations
Here is taking a look at some of the amazing harvest winter festivals celebrated in the country.
Celebrated in the beginning of January around the winter solstice, Lohri is a vibrant, musical and colorful harvest festival in Punjab. It is celebrated by lighting bonfires, around which prayers and food are offered. However, the highlight of the festival is the amazing and energetic dances around the fire. On the beat of the traditional dhol the rhythm fills up the atmosphere and the circular seamless dancing reaches different levels of crescendo. Dressed in ethnic attires, folk dances are a delight to watch. The gorgeous sarson ka saag, makki ki roti, gur roti, pindi chana etc. are the dishes to gorge on during Lohri.
In Assam the harvest festival of Magh Bihu is celebrated in mid-January. Lasting for almost a week, Bihu is all about traditional dances, bonfires and feasting. The food for the festival feast is prepared in thatched huts. Also, traditional games, such as buffalo fighting and Takeli Bhonga are played during the festival. Some of the delicious delicacies that are prepared during this festival include til pitha, sunga pitha, laru and more.
The harvest festival of Tamil Nadu is a four day celebration around mid-January. On the second day of the festival pongal rice is offered to the Sun God. Similarly, each day is marked with prayer, such as prayers to the Lord of Fire, cattle and birds etc. Homes are decorated with various plants and rangolis mark the entrance of homes. Traditional dishes, such as sweet pongal, rava pongal, bisi bele bath, curd rice etc. are prepared during the festival.
5. Makar Sankranti
One of the most unique festivals, Makar Sankranti or the Kite Festival is Gujarat’s most sought after cultural event. A harvest festival, the day of Uttarayan is the most important day for agriculture-related occupations followed next day by Makar Sankranti. It marks the shift of the sun into the zodiac sign of Makara rashi or Capricorn. However, it is the Kite Festival that steals most of the limelight. Huge, brightly colored kites take up the skies across the state and many other parts of the country.
Cultural winter festivals
A break from the hot sultriness, winters are one of the most loved seasons in India. Wrapped in shawls and sweaters, the season exudes positive vibes of energy. And perhaps, that is why a number of cultural winter festivals unfurl across the nation too. In snow or in the desert or on the beach, the cultural landscape shines through regions, states and cities. Let’s take a look!
1. Nagpur Festival
Nagpur Festival is also popularly known as the Ramdevji Cattle Fair and is one of the largest cattle festivals in India. Celebrated in February this cultural bonanza is all about dressing and showcasing the cattle. Besides, there are various traditional games, such as tug of war, bullock racing, and cockfights etc. that are on display. There are dance performances, music, contests, performances and more that make this festival a wonderful experience.
2. Kutchh Rann Mahotsav
The land of white sand is sprinkled with color, vivaciousness, music and skilled artisans. The Kutch Rann Mahotsav is an extravaganza of dances, performances, folklore, games and tents and stalls that are adored by items showcasing the talent of its local artisans. An iconic celebration of Gujarat’s culture and folk, it is one of the most loved and popular winter festivals of India. An ongoing event for three months (November- February) the Rann Utsav is also visited by foreign tourists.
3. Manali Winter Carnival
The Winter Carnival in Himachal Pradesh is held in Manali in January. Needless to say, this beautiful hill-station is regaling in the winter magnificence. With snow cover in many parts, this Winter Carnival attracts tourists from far and wide. A celebration of the culture of the people of the land, there are winter sports, such as skating, skiing etc., along with folk dances and more.
4. Desert Festival Jaisalmer
Held in February this four day festival is a true peak into Rajasthan’s culture. A wonderful display of the state’s traditions and heritage the festival is fraught with camel rides, moustache competitions, folk music and dance, camel races, camel polo and more. Camels are dressed in ethnic wear and there is a platter of traditional Rajasthani food to devour.
5. Camel Fest Bikaner
Another camel winter festival that is held in Rajasthan during January is the Bikaner Camel Festival. Similar to the Jaisalmer Desert Festival, the festival begins with the parade of the beautifully dressed camels from the massive Junagarh Fort.
6. Mount Abu Winter Festival
Rajasthan is a happening state when it comes to winter festivals. The Mount Abu Winter Festival is a coming together of musical performances, dances, live concerts, fire performances and of course, a sumptuous food feast. With performers coming in from all over the world, this winter festival is a three day long event.
7. Goa Carnival
Celebrated first in the 1960’s Goa’s Carnival has remained steadfast over the years and acquired the status of festive celebration of humanity. Steeped in fun, merrymaking and splendid colors this musical fest is a feast of all kinds. There are, of course, many festivals that take place in Goa, however the Winter Carnival in March is a wonderful time to plan your trip to the land of beaches, party and fun. A four day festival, there are various events, parades, dances, games and feasting of various Goan cuisines, Portuguese dishes and more.
8. Winter Carnival Kashmir
The Paradise on Earth showcases its winter celebrations and unique culture during the Winter Carnival held in December-January. With winter sporting events, such as skiing, cultural performances and a dive into Kashmir’s various dishes and recipes, this carnival is a reflection of the warmth and comfort of Kashmiri culture and its people.
9. Konark Dance Festival
Held in Odisha in February across the background of the splendid Konark Sun Temple, this 5 day dance festival is a delight for the connoisseurs of Classical dance. The live performances are usually held in open air on the Chandrabhaga Beach. The dance forms that come alive during the festival include Odissi, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Chao, Kathakali and more. A handicraft fair is also held during this festival.
10. Hornbill Festival
Held in Nagaland the Hornbill Festival is a celebration of the cultures of the tribes of Northeast India. Traditional and folk dances performed to the beats of the drums, war dances and various adventures, such as hunting rituals, bike and car sporting, fashion shows and much more are part of this festival. The breathtaking natural beauty of the land, coupled with its rich culture that is seen in its people, attire, food etc. can all be experienced during this winter festival.
Winter festivals in India are plentiful. Though unique in their own right, each offers a wonderful window into the heritage, traditions and culture of the land. Go north, south, east or west, winter beauty is distinct and discernible in all its shades. Couple it with winter festivals and you are sure to not regret it!